When Rani Kalyan Parad, a 26-year-old woman from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, learned that she was pregnant with her first child four years ago, she was overjoyed. Nine months later, when her son arrived, the elation turned into her biggest heartache. The boy weighed a total of 2.5 pounds — less than half the low birth weight defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) — had difficulty breathing, and within three days, succumbed. Parad was left battling for her life too.
“There were many complications in the pregnancy: My hemoglobin and nutrition levels were particularly low. But I didn’t know this then,” says Parad, who works as an agricultural laborer in Khojewadi village for a daily pay of INR 200 ($2.80). “During those nine months, I hadn’t had a single medical checkup. The closest hospital was in the city of Aurangabad, more than 16 miles away. One visit meant losing out on a day’s wages as well as costs of at least INR 2000 [$28].”
According to UNICEF, an estimated 800 women die of pregnancy-related causes across the world every day, and 20% of these women are from India. A WHO report from 2015 pegs the number of annual maternal deaths in India at 45,000, while the situation is much worse for newborns: 750,000 neonates (aged 0 to 28 days) die in India every year, the highest for any country in the world. Rural India is responsible for a disproportionately higher number of such casualties owing to lack of access to proper health care.
In a bid to control maternal and neonatal mortality rates in rural India, many technology-based solutions have emerged in the past few years. This trend to leverage technology to ensure safer pregnancies is comprehensive. As of March 2019, with 560 million Indians online, the South Asian country has the second-highest number of internet users in the world. According to a digital adoption and internet trends report from 2018, rural India alone has more than 250 million internet users and is expected to witness double-digit growth for the next few years, and will…